We often think that a child's memory is good because they appear to be able to recall and comment on something that has happened a few months ago or years ago. And yes, it is good.
However, there is more to memory than this.
Does your child remember visually?
Does your child remember auditorily?
How is their working memory?
How is the short-term memory?
It can be frustrating to realise that your child can remember events from the past, but not an instruction that you gave them a few minutes ago. That's because there are different types of memory.
Working memory enables you to remember what you are doing as you are doing it. It enables a child to concentrate on a task. It enables a child to use their other skills, such as reasoning, cognition, vision, etc, and therefore learn.
Short term memory enables you to remember where you put something down 10 minutes ago. It enables a child to remember the teachers instruction, or your instruction.
Long term memory is what we commonly talk about as memory - the ability to recall what happened a couple of months ago.
Factors affecting development of memory:
What does this word mean? Well, the clue is the word "idea". Ideation means having an idea in your head that you want to action. You may see the idea visually or you may think it in words or you may just get a sense of it. Either way, these are ideas.
Do you have ideas? Where do they come from? Are they triggered by what someone else is saying, by what you read, or by what you see? All good. Your brain is working.
Some children's brain's don't work well in this way. Some wiring in the brain is different and causes Dyspraxia. The ideation phase is one step in the praxic working of the brain. The next step is planning out how to achieve the idea. The third step is organising the physical actions and executing them. Some children have issues with just one of these steps, and other children have issues with 2 or all 3 of these steps.
Signs of a lack of ideation:
1. Lots of physical running around with no play or imaginative purpose.
2. Repeating of the same play pattern, over and over, with no extension or adaptation. A child may be able to stack blocks and yet not be able to do anything else with the blocks. Just think - how often do we as adults stack blocks with children. Often!! So they see and are encouraged to stack.
3. Enjoyment and choosing of activities that require no ideas or planning - watching T.V. or other screens, mechanised toys, wanting a large amount of time listening to stories. Passive activities.
4. Lots of crashing/smashing play - crashing cars and other toys.
5. Watching other children and then, at a later stage, imitating the actions, with no understanding of the purpose.
What to do?
Teach the child play sequences. Take note of how other children of a similar age, play contructively and aim to teach these to the child. Start from where they are at or what they are interested in. Extend and adapt any play they are repeating. For example: If a child only stacks blocks, make a garage alongside, explaining how you are doing it. Drive the car in and out. Make a road to go with it. Ask the child to make another garage. Give step by step instructions, if needed. And then over time, reduce how much you instruct or help.
Limit screen time.
Ban crashing games, except if part of purposeful play. (Which may be one crash in a sequence and then involve rescue and hospital play) Teach other ways to play with the cars or objects being crashed.
Discussions, including "What if we do......?", "I've got an idea. We could do this, or this. Then this might happen".
Help a child recall what he has done in play by going over it at a later stage. Reinforce how s/he organised and planned the idea.
Some children (people) have ideas but are unable to plan them or carry them out.
One of the early clues to possible Dsypraxia can be a child not following instructions, not because they didn't hear, and not because they don't understand but....................... This is the bit that can be hard to figure out. You are sure that they understand, you thought their hearing was okay, and yet nothing is happening. The child might be ignoring you.
By the way, if your child is ignoring you, there will be a reason - such as being engrossed in what they are doing (a good thing don't you think?), or they didn't hear, or you haven't got their attention, or that they can't stop briefly to attend to you. There are many such reasons, rather than wilfully trying to ignore you.
Anyway, main clue: the child appears to be ignoring you. So you then repeat what you said and still no response. So you reword the instruction in case different words will help with understanding. Trouble is, this actually makes it worse for them. If a child is having a delay in interpreting what you said, and you then reword, there is now a completely different set of words overlaying the first instruction which creates confusion. The child's brain is trying to process the first instruction and another is added. The instructions don't stand in queue but pile up in their brain.
Looking at it from the child's point of view, this delay in processing verbal information can be like hearing sounds that have no meaning and some time after, it suddenly clicks. The sounds suddenly change into words and have meaning. Then the child can do the required action. But when there are more instructions coming at them, they need to be able to hear and remember the next sounds while processing the first lot. Difficult for anyone.
Getting a child's attention first is always a helpful thing. I know, you can't do this everytime, sometimes instructions just need to be given from where you are. But it is helpful, because you then know that they are ready to listen. You may have interrupted them but this was going to happen anyway, and you can do it respectfully.
And remember to give the child time. When they are ignoring you and this happens often, it is probably that they have a slow proceessing time for auditory information.
This may well improve as the child matures. Or, as so often with Dsypraxia, processing times will be faster at some time and slower at other times, with no clues as to what makes a difference.
One of the things in the list last time about early clues to Dyspraxia was a child not being able to modulate their voice. Or they may appear to on occassion when the voice just happens to come out quieter - maybe they are sleepy or tired.
It really doesn't help for adult to tell the child to sssshh. That actually means stop and be quiet. But we want them to learn to speak quieter not stop! Maybe the adult says to speak quieter, but how does the child know what this means. This is the key question and means that the child needs to learn to listen to themselves first of all. They need to learn that sound comes in different levels.
A great way to do this is by singing. Have fun at the same time too. Choose a song the child likes and sing it very loudly, then very quietly. Tell the child "Let's sing loudly/quietly." Before you begin the song. No whispering though, because whispering is totally different in the way the voice box is used.
Once they can sing loudly and quietly, then you can move onto graduating the level of loudness. With singing very loudly, a little bit quieter, a little bit quieter, very quiet, etc.
Later on you can do this same exercise with sounds - animal sounds, vehicle noises, fun sounds.
And you can encourage them to notice environmental sounds and how loud they are.
Once they have learned to modulate their voice in this way, then you can tell them about speaking. So sometimes tell them that you are speaking very loudly, loudly, or quieter etc. And this leads into being able to ask them to speak louder, or quieter.
Make sure you give them attention and listen to them when they are speaking quieter though, otherwise the child may speak louder to get your attention.
There is nothing definitive about this list but if your child is showing more than a few of these at around 3 years old, then maybe have a think about the learning needs of your child. Simple tasks can be taught. (ideas next time)
Dyspraxia is afterall, just a label. In essence, it means that a child has an issue with planning physical movements, especially fine motor movements. It could also mean that there is an issue with mental planning and even with having the idea that comes before the planning.
As a diagnosis, it doesn't usually get looked at at an early age unless some other issue crops up which leads to a peadiatric appointment.
Part of the reason for this, is that there can be other reasons for the issues. Often parents and early childhood teahers will think the child is lazy, or stubborn and contrary. They may have older siblings who do things for them. The children themselves can develop strategies to hide their difficulty. Eg, waiting for the impatience of the adult to mean that the adult does the task!
1. Reluctance to draw. Wanting you to draw for them.
2. Not picking up on how to put on their shoes, even though you have done it often for them.
3. Unclear speech (many fine muscles here that need coordinating)
4. Repeating someone else's speech. Repeating their own words.
5. Not wanting to put toys away.
6. A lot of watching others.
7. Enjoys being read to, a lot.
8. Loud talking - difficulty in modulating the loudness.
9. Slow to process verbal instructions, leading to you wondering about their hearing.
10. Difficulty coordinating eating with utensils.
11. Not liking some foods - they may be harder to manage in their mouth.
12. May not initiate ideas for play. May repeat play patterns that have been taught.
Some children very easily get into believing that they are going to fail. Then they won't even have a go, because they think that they are likely to fail.
So how did this belief arise? Don't take it on yourself, as a parent. It may have been the simplest thing. It may have been a little time when they couldn't succeed at something they expected to do easily. And you may have been nowhere near.
Children pick up beliefs from the circumstances, from the people around them, from their own thoughts and from the emotions they feel. Once these start playing out correctly, then the belief is reinforced, and grows to affect many situations.
So when you notice that a child is unwilling to try what can you do?
In this specific moment, please play it down. Say ok, not now then. And maybe you start doing it. If the situation is light and they feel that their desire not to try is respected, they may well relax. And they may well decide that they can take over from you and continue the task.
Some people, and particularly teachers, decide to adopt a programme that teaches children that its ok to fail. This usually involves a mini lecture about how we all fail and its ok, and we learn from our mistakes.
Really this is too general and to the child, just sounds like a put down.
Golden rule, be specific. If a child has failed to succeed in a task, ask yourself did you see what the child did? If you didn't then some reassurance about maybe it will work next time, is best. Keep it light. And leave your anxiety out of your voice and your thoughts. We all know that things work sometimes and not at others. Regardless of how good at the task we are. And children are at an earlier stage of learning than us adults.
So now, the key thing is to be there and observe what is happening. Then you can notice which parts the child does correctly, or in which part the child came up with some possible problem solving. This is what you need to focus on and what you can encourage your child to focus on. Give specific feedback on the part they successfully did. This builds their confidence.
Forget lecturing (explaining!) to them that its ok to fail. It really doesn't have any weight in getting them to change their beliefs about themselves. The opposite actually.
Notice the little bits that they do succeed with, and comment on those. Not that it was good either. Don't judge part of a task as good. (They might think the rest is bad!) But that what the child did then, worked. This directs their attention to the specific part or task, in a way that encourages thoughts about the task, rather than whether they are good enough to do it. Maybe you can say why it worked.
If a child is stuck in not giving things a go, work with them. Have turns. Have them guide your hand. Laugh. Make it light. "We did it!" Leave pressure about next time, out of the picture.
Sometimes parents think children need to be taught about emotions. Often this comes up because a child has displayed some strong anger. And to be honest, as an adult, we can feel frightened by anger. What the heck do we do so our child does not feel anger. How do we get rid of it. Quickly!
Sometimes this topic comes up because a child is crying.....and won't stop. Just how do we stop them. And again, adults can feel frightened by this emotion too.
And the notion of not trying to stop the child may be foreign to you.
Early Childhood teachers will say: "use your words". As though whatever is being felt in the child's body can easily be translated into words. Ever thought that this is a hard concept for children to get? How about you? Can you remember to put into words the emotion you are feeling? Maybe later when you have had time to engage your brain and think about how you felt. Maybe then.
And what about when a child gets over excited. Do you ask the child to put this emotion into words? Do you try and calm the child down? Often this happens. It seems as though we don't want any emotion around us. We would sooner that children and people put this emotions into words and talk about them rather than feel them.
All this is having an impact on the children. and how they feel. It teaches them that emotions are not allowed.....quick, don't feel, just say something calmly. Stay calm, at all costs.
Children learn about what to do with emotions, by absorbing how the adults around them deal with them. If they see no emotion in adults then they will learn to suppress emotions, because that is what is being modelled for them. If they see adults quickly pushing down emotions, then the child will learn to do the same thing.
If the adults project their anger out and onto others than that is what they will learn.
The other way children learn about emotions, is through stories. Consider what stories you read to children. have a read yourself and see what happens with emotions. Are the characters allowed to feel. Do they blame others for their feelings? Are they encouraged to feel them?
Ideally, we want children to learn that all emotions are valid. Because they are. It's what we do with them that may not be appropriate. Acting out and driving emotions into behaviour is not usually good for anyone.
Please teach your children to know that when they are feeling an emotion , that they are allowed to feel them in their body. That is where the emotion is. Sure, we can talk about it after, and express it verbally to others. But in the moment, the emotion is felt in the body. And if a child learns to feel it in their body without thinking about (blaming) why it is there, then it will simply dissolve. And life can carry on, until the next emotions arises.
Some parents become concerned that their pre-school child may be colour blind. This concern may stem from their child being unable to name colours accurately, showing confusion about the names of the colours and saying the wrong colour name. THIS IS NOT COLOUR BLINDNESS. This is a language issue. In other words the child is still learning the names of colours.
Colour is a very complex concept. Allow yourself to think of all the shades of red that there are. And they are all called red. Think of all the shades of blue that there are and they are all called blue. And so on, with other colours. Then there are those more obscure colours with different names. It takes a lot of learning. A lot of people naming for them, so they learn. A lot of children can't name colours accurately until they are 4 years old. This is normal. Some children name colours earlier. Some children name shapes earlier.
If you are still concerned that your child is colour blind then there is a simple way to find out. Most colour blindness tests involve naming numbers and letters hidden in coloured dots. So this is not helpful for a young child. Some have pictures which may be easier, but still involves language concepts.
Can you child match colours? For example, there are puzzles where round pieces are placed on top of a hole which is the same colour as the piece. Or you can make a matching colour board, by having a number of coloured squares or circles on a board and the same number of squares or circles with exactly the same colours. Observe how your child matches these. You need to know that they can actually match. Can they match pictures and shapes? Then can they match colours?
Within other activities, find places for sorting colours or for finding the same colour. See how the child gets on with this and see what you observe.
The most common colour blindness issue is that of red/green. Notice if the child can match all the other colours accurately and yet consistently mixes red/green, sometimes getting them right and sometimes not, or even putting them off the board as they don't know where to put them. Then there may be something to investigate further. If difficulties with matching colours continues into school years, where the child can match pictures and shapes, then a check up is warranted.
Observation can give you lots of information. Observe in many different situations.
CoaA pincer grip is the use of the top of thumb and the top of the index finger opposite each other. This grip is useful for picking up very small objects and also develops into a mature tripod grip of a pencil or pen.
Prerequisites: Early development which precedes this grip is the variety of grips used when children have a rich experience with many different shaped objects. The key development before the pincer grip is that of using the index finger to poke. Poke into holes of different sizes. poke into playdough. Poke into sand and other textures. These develop awareness of the index finger as well as strengthen it.
Provide construction toys such as lego and other types. If a child is slow to develop the pincer grip provide motivating things to pick up. Maybe currants to eat one at a time, tiny cubes of cheese. If you offer a currant or small raisin to a child with your pincer grip they need to use a pincer grip to extract it from yours. Help them do this.
Collage activities help too. See photo for coloured match sticks which require a pincer grip to pick up.
There are many little and not so little fine motor tasks that we, as adults, just do. Once we learned how to.............maybe by watching, maybe by experimenting, maybe by being told.....................the movements became automatic and now we don't have to think about how to do it.
When a child does not pick it up easily, the trick is to look at what you do. Slow down your thinking and observe each tiny movement, where each finger is placed, and the direction of the pressure you apply. Then you are in a better position to explain to your child.
One such little task is that of taking off a bread bag tag.
1. Sit the bread bag upright,
2. Hold the plastic end of bag up with left hand.
3. Place right hand thumb on top of the tag in the middle.
4. Place right hand index finger under the right hand corner of the tag.
5. Apply a little pressure in the thumb and at the same time, push the right hand corner of the tag towards self with the index finger. Balance the pressure between thumb and index finger.
6. The tag comes off.
7. To put the tag back on: Spin the bread so that the top plastic turns to make a tight cord, holding the top with one hand and pushing it to spin with the other. Continue to hold the top plastic with one hand, rest the bread upright on the bench or table, position the tag in the middle of the plastic cord holding it with thumb and index finger and push it on.